Skip to main content

Is community-based management the way forward in Ghana?

Published on: 08/05/2019

The community-based management (CBM) model has often been called into question as an effective means of service provision.

The inherent challenges of this system - the lack of professionalisation, financing deficits, limited monitoring capabilities - can lead to major difficulties in ensuring the functionality of water systems. This challenge can be seen in Ghana, where community-based management is the most relied upon system in rural areas. While 44% of urban dwellers in the country have access to safely managed water, only 7% of the rural population has access to water at this service level (JMP, 2015). In order to improve access to safely managed water and to improve the sustainability of water points in rural areas, it is necessary to understand what components of the community-based management system contribute to the functionality of water points and which aspects pose challenges.

Paying the caretaker at the water point in Ghana

Between 2013-2016, IRC and the Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA) conducted the SMARTerWASH monitoring initiative to track the functionality and management of handpumps throughout 64 districts in rural Ghana. The monitoring framework evaluated the functionality of handpumps by giving each one a service level score, as seen in the table below. Management teams were also monitored and given scores based on a variety of indicators and sub-indicators describing their governance, operations and financial management.

Table 1 Monitoring Indicators 
Service level indicatorsStandard
QuantityHandpump and standpipe: 20 lpcd: Household connection: 60 lpcd
QualityMeets all Ghana Standards Authority standards for water quality of drinking water
CrowdingHand dug well: max 150 people per facility; Borehole or standpipe: max 300 people per facility
Distance facility and usersUp to 500 metres
ReliabilityThe facility is providing water for at least 95% of the year
Handpump service levelDescription of handpump service level
IIIThe handpump provides water services meeting the standard on all the service level indicators
IIThe handpump fails to meet the water services standard on one or more service level indicators
IThe handpump is not functioning or not used
Piped scheme service levelDescription of piped scheme service level
IVThe piped scheme provides service as per design standards for population category and meets all the sub-indicators
IIIThe piped scheme does not meet one of the sub-indicators
IIThe piped scheme provides service not in line with design standards
IThe piped scheme is not functioning

Service level indicators for the CWSA Monitoring Framework - Source

Overall, the initiative found that 61% of handpumps were functioning, but only 6% were functioning in accordance with the national guidelines. It also found that the WSMTs in place to manage piped schemes were performing at a higher level than those managing handpumps. Given that 47% of the rural population relies on handpumps for water provision, it is important to understand what management factors may require adjustment to increase water access closer to urban levels.

In order to examine how rural water management influences handpump functionality, we used the data collected from the SMARTerWASH initiative to conduct a logistic regression analysis. The data was collected based on the framework developed by CWSA. For this analysis, we used the main functionality and management indicators for which data was collected, as well as some of the sub-indicators for which enough data was collected to be representative of the total handpumps.

Key findings 
What works:
Handpumps were more likely to be functional and reliable when they were managed by WSMTs with:
• Younger handpumps
• Spare parts available within three days
• Breakdown repair within three days
• Positive revenue and expenditure balances and
• No need for repair support from the service authority

What doesn't work:
Handpumps with no management structure show the highest rates of non-functionality

Handpumps were less likely to be functional and reliable when they were managed by WSMTs with:
• handpumps that were not Afridev,
• older handpumps
• no support from service authority when needed

What was surprising:
Some factors expected to decrease non-functionality based on former analyses that were not found in this study were:
a. Tariff collection
b. Area mechanic services
c. Training of WSMTs and
d. Service authority management of providers*
*So few of the WSMTs received support from the District Authority that it was difficult to statistically assess the relationship between different support types and functionality

Given that those factors which reflect the capacity of WSMTs to self-manage their handpumps were significant in this analysis, it seems that the CBM model can be effective, assuming that the teams are functioning properly. The national policy for water provision in Ghana is well-structured and the roles and responsibilities of each level in the system are clearly defined. However, only 6% of the WSMTs are functioning in accordance with these guidelines. Considering such a small proportion of teams are capable of managing their water facilities without requiring substantial external support, does it make sense to continue the community-based management model?

Improving the management of handpumps by WSMTs would require an increase in the training of WSMT members and area mechanics to operate and maintain handpumps. It may also involve the restructuring of tariff collection at the community level and budget allocation at the district or regional level. Given the vast amount of resources this process would require, does it perhaps make more sense to follow a utility company management model akin to that of the urban water sector?

The professionalisation of the rural water sector would allow for increased public private partnerships and could increase the functionality of and access to handpumps for the rural population. The model is also geared toward a future in which rural populations continue to move to urban settings. However, this model does risk decreasing access to water for poorer populations and increasing the gap between the wealthy and the poor, as often happens in urban settings.

Community-based management has become an important model in providing access to water and sanitation in rural areas around the globe. There are many benefits to this model, but in order for the system to function, management teams must have the capacity to carry out the necessary responsibilities. Herein lies the challenge. Do we invest our resources and time into improving the management abilities of CMB teams? Or, do we start thinking about alternative solutions for providing water and sanitation to these harder to reach populations?

All these findings and more can be found in the paper Community-based management of handpumps in rural Ghana and is available as a resource below.



At IRC we have strong opinions and we value honest and frank discussion, so you won't be surprised to hear that not all the opinions on this site represent our official policy.